04 julho 2017

The Man Who Flattened A City

Isaac Cline was the meteorologist for Galveston, Texas, from 1889 to 1901. He was one of the first to provide reliable forecasts of freezing weather. He also provided some of the first available flood warnings on the Colorado and Brazos rivers. In the early 1890s, some residents became concerned about the possibility of hurricanes. They wanted to erect an expensive seawall in front of the city, to block high water in case a major storm came in from the Gulf of Mexico. Cline was not a fan. In 1891, he wrote an article in the Galveston Daily News in which he gave his official meteorological opinion that the thought of a hurricane ever doing any serious harm to Galveston was “a crazy idea.”  The idea of a seawall quickly faded after that.

On September 8th, 1901, a hurricane came in from the Gulf of Mexico. Galveston was devastated. Between 6,000 and 12,000 people died, including Cline’s pregnant wife Cora. Cline’s stand in that newspaper, nine years earlier, is credited with being a large contributing factor to the devastation. Galveston remains the deadliest single-day event in United States history.

Interestingly, Cline remained with the Weather Bureau until his retirement in 1935. The regional forecasting center was moved from Galveston to New Orleans in 1901 – people were probably pretty upset with Cline and the Weather Bureau in Galveston. Cline cultivated a stellar reputation in New Orleans and successfully predicted major flooding in 1912, 1915 and 1927. He even received an honorary doctorate in 1934 from Tulane University!

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